Square Circle

by Eric Eve (TADS; IFDB page)

You are a prisoner for a crime you don’t remember committing, and your only chance of escape is to draw a square circle.

Kafkaesque is a word many have used to describe this game, and indeed a sense of claustrophobia pervades the entire escape attempt. The writing is solid and sometimes witty; most visible objects were implemented. It was, however, marred for me with imperfect line breaks and the occasional “infodump”.

Balance between story and puzzles was probably a tough call here. There is plenty of both, which provides for a rich playing experience, but the delivery of major plot points was often delivered as an uninterrupted chunk of text. Reading the ‘infodump’ like that broke the flow of the story and, for me, lessened the impact of the most major twists.

The puzzles were well-hinted with contextual hints, and there are multiple solutions to some of the puzzles. Despite this, the puzzles are not easy. For me, solutions weren’t immediately obvious and I often referred to the hints. I found it hard to find that moment of enlightenment when solving the puzzles, partly because there wasn’t enough material with which I could experiment. Also, it seems to be possible to put the game into an unwinnable state, probably meriting its Nasty rating on the Forgiveness scale.

Conversation in Square Circle also merits some mention, with most topics of conversation given an appropriate response. As with Blighted Isle, Eve also includes some natural-sounding responses to topics for which the NPCs do not have an answer – a thoughtful, and also playful, gesture.

Square Circle is technically strong, with a well-thought-out story and interesting puzzles. There is a good twist towards the end, and perhaps could adopt a more strongly consistent tone, but well worth playing.

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Fish bowl

This game was written for IFcomp 2012 by Ethan Rupp and Joshua Rupp. (Parser; IFDB)

You play Larry Wyndcombe, beachcomber, who wakes up in his hut with a fish bowl he’s never seen before.

Language: Rather minimal, though it was atmospheric.

Plot: Relatively straightforward, though there are definite ‘Lovecraftian’ moments (in quotation marks because I have an extremely limited experience with Lovecraft). I thought the resolution/ending was quite sublime, too.

Mechanics: Nothing remarkable.

Ecdysis

Ecdysis

written by Peter Nepstad.

Ecdysis: the process of shedding off the old skin (in reptiles) or casting off the outer cuticle (in insects and other arthropods)

Ecdysis is a relatively short IF based on entry 221 (!) of H.P. Lovecraft’s (him again!) Commonplace book, where he ‘wrote down fragments, plot ideas and scenario outlines’. 

It is not particularly evocative. It contains no puzzle and very little plot. The greatest value in playing it is the alarming ending. And, of course, the rather disturbing descriptions. (“You scratch the back of your head. It feels swollen and soft and you scratch so furiously that it begins to bleed.”) 

(explanation of the Commonplace Book from the .txt file which comes with the download)